IT was a case of pushing a hospital bed for the good of his health, of his entourage and of the wider community, as Upper Bann MP David Simpson gave blanket coverage to his constituency to raise much-needed funds for the Mandeville Cancer Unit at Craigavon Area Hospital.
The project started with Health Minister Edwin Poots telling the Simpson group to “push off” from Lurgan Hospital and take their bed with them!
The party of about 20 included MLAs Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson, as well as Craigavon Mayor Carla Lockhart and a plethora of their DUP colleagues from Craigavon and Banbridge councils. And as well as Minister Poots, they were given a hearty send-off by Mairead McAlinden, chief executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
It was a two-day project, the Friday ‘leg’ being from Lurgan to Banbridge via Waringstown, and the Saturday push from Banbridge to Portadown via Gilford. Said Mr Simpson, “The money really rolled in all along the way. And while we held up traffic, motorists were not only patient, but generous, and we’ll have the full amount counted by the end of the week with more donations coming in. It was tough going and we were delighted to finish the course around lunchtime on Saturday.”
The bed push is the seventh charity event the MP has organised over the years, and it should push the overall total for various charities to the £120,000 mark. “They have included three sit-outs every year in the main towns in the pre-Christmas period and four walks around the main towns and villages in the summer time, but this is the first time we’ve pushed a bed,” he said. “We had a couple of young ladies in their pyjamas at the start of the weekend for glamorous photographic purposes. I have to say that a few young ladies on the project had a bit of a lie-down and a rest during the push, but I wasn’t allowed that luxury. No rest for MPs!”
The projects over the years have benefitted a plethora of charities, ranging from hospitals to cancer groups. Last year, Help For Heroes benefitted to the tune of £12,000 from a straightforward walk around the three towns.
“This one’s much more difficult, with pushing a bed,” said Mr Simpson. “Once again the response from the people of Portadown has been truly remarkable. We raised well over £500 just along the road from motorist between Lurgan and Banbridge. Added to that we raised over £800 from motorists on Saturday between Banbridge and Portadown. Taken together with what we have raised by way of sponsorship I am very hopeful that we are well on our way to reaching our goal of helping to obtain a therapy chair for the Mandeville Cancer Unit.
“I have been a frequent visitor to the Mandeville Unit and can only express my gratitude for the outstanding work that staff do every single day. Patients receive a quality of care that is simply second to none and this was an opportunity to provide some tangible practical support for the extraordinary levels of care and dedication that they show to patients and families.”
Anyone wanting to donate can do so at the DUP constituency office in Portadown, Lurgan or Banbridge.